State Awards Final Construction Phase Of Tulsa's I-44 Widening Project

Monday, July 2nd 2012, 3:27 pm
By: News On 6

The Oklahoma Transportation Commission awarded the fourth and final construction phase of the I-44 widening project between Riverside Drive and Yale Monday.

The $50 million contract was awarded to Manhattan Road and Bridge Company and Allen Contracting.

It is part of a $400 million widening project, and will encompass the Lewis Avenue corridor portion of the project.

"This is the beginning of the end for one of the most challenging reconstruction projects in the history of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation," Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation Gary Ridley said. "We have already transformed several other sections of I-44 into a modern interstate and a showcase for Tulsa, and we are excited to be at the final phase in this corridor."

This portion of the project will see I-44 widen from four lanes to six between Peoria and Harvard. Other work includes safety improvements to the ramps and frontage roads and the replacement of the Lewis Avenue bridge over I-44.

It is the final phase for a project that's been 20 years in the making, and while ODOT said it will help ease traffic in this area, it doesn't come without a price.

It's a five mile stretch of road that's been under construction since 2009.

ODOT expanded and moved I-44 from four lanes to six, from Riverside Drive to Yale Avenue.

They'll move the interstate a little south from where it currently sits, rebuild the Lewis Avenue bridge, and build new on and off ramps to Lewis.

Sean Young owns the Bestway Shoe Hospital, which sits in the Fikes Shopping Center, a stone's throw from Lewis and I-44.

"It's going to be really worth it. I think you can get around Tulsa a lot easier then," said Young.

Young's store has been there 14 years, but the highway project is forcing him to move.

The shopping center is being forced to remodel which means no more room for his shop.

Young said he accepted the move as necessary, but was not happy about it. "How anybody feels—upset, mad, want to get out as soon as possible, move on," he said.

It's a different but similar story next door.

Connie Bradley-Thompson has owned P&V Cigars and Party Supplies since 2002, but worked there since the 70s.

"It's literally put me out of business," Bradley-Thompson said.

She said, when work began on I-44 in 2009, her bottom line began to drop and it hasn't gotten any better.

"Business dropped when the construction first started on the highway, and then has just plummeted since," Bradley-Thompson said.

Her space is safe from the shopping center remodel, but Bradley-Thompson is still closing her store.

She said her credit has taken a major hit because of the loss of business, and she hasn't even received a paycheck for herself for more than two years.

Both Young and Bradley-Thompson admit that I-44 needed to be rebuilt and, in the long run, it will be good for the city.

They're just sad it had to impact their livelihood.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation said the Lewis Avenue corridor project is expected to start later this year with completion sometime in late 2013.